1,000 Big Year or Freshness Big Year: I decide

Life quickly mocks plans, or at least that’s my experience. After a handful of sick leave days have stopped exercise, I rise late, thereby ruining my theoretical writing program for the day. Mid-morning, I’m in Ristretto, about to pack up and head home. The plan is to get back jogging in the early afternoon, then do what I can for more work. But I’m working so well, I cry (silently)! So I change tack completely, deciding to work uninterrupted (no Facebook, Andres) until 2:30 PM to secure my “morning hours.” I have a Ristretto flatbread for lunch and this reminds me of sending out for a quick sandwich from the Collins Street office. I wallow in data and words.

Verdict: how wonderful! The equivalent of an ideal morning’s work and 1,400 words. My exercising 90 kms/30 kms/3 targets for the week are in tatters but I had to make a choice and I did and it was the right one.


Freshness Big Year: Yes I’ve been diligent but . . . (a big “but”)

The first five weeks (in practice 29 days) of 2018 have been a major construction site in my life, an attempt to instil routines that leave me consistently fresh and energetic. Has this worked?

This year I’m continuing daily exercise but a bit less of it: each week, I go for 90 kms of cycling, 30 kms of running, and 3 gym sessions – call it 90/30/3 – all during my afternoons. Life is busy, so I’m not doing anything interesting or ambitious, just solid, boring physicality. A complication is that last year, whenever I had a “day off,” I’d still squeeze in a full week’s exercise, but 2018 makes that tough, so when I have a part-week (and four of the first five weeks have been these), I’ve needed to cut back 90/30/3. I’ve figured out each day of the week represents an hour and a half of exercise. Looking back over January, I fell short a little bit during three weeks but the effect has been that my daily effort has been just five minutes below target, quite okay. (The actual daily efforts have straddled the spectrum from joy to suffering, but I won’t address that now.)

Dietary strictures – alcohol-free Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, plus prohibitions on platter cheese and afternoon snacking – have worked, 100%. Hooray! I’m sure positive health benefits have accrued, but more important has been a lift in self-esteem (“I can be moderate in behaviour”).

Each day I have also set an alarm to rise and, in accordance with modern sleep therapy techniques, to start sleeping. Has this worked? Not at all, indeed spiraling insomnia is hammering me. Here’s the dark secret of my Freshness Big Year: I’m conscientious but instead of a new-found steady energy, I’m frazzled and sleepless. Solution? Who knows . . .

Freshness Big Year: Lambasting onself

In front of my daily place of haunting, see the slick road bikes parked in a row! Inside me a tirade launches: why the fleck am I not in a great communal cycling group, witnessing dawns all across my town, living the dream of the bike?

Icy rationality kicks in. Andres, this year isn’t about silly cycling romance. Your Freshness Big Year is no big deal, bro, just very regular exercise, seeking steady incandescent energy for what is most important: your life and your damned book.

Freshness Big Year: When your feet turn soft

2017 saw next to no hiking, just cycling, jogging, and gym, but my presumption was that those three activities keep me well enough prepared for bushwalking. After all, walking is a doddle compared to running or cycling, right?

That assumption was put to the test last weekend when we practised hiking from one place to another, along the picturesque Surf Coast Track, carrying a 10-kilogram full-up day pack. We were rehearsing for our May odyssey, the Way of St Francis of Assisi, and we did 45 kilometers over the two days. Just as well we checked, for the result was most unexpected. My legs were sore after Day 1 and even sorer after Day 2, and my heels and toes burned hot, perhaps prelude to blisters.

So . . . more practice is essential or May will be torture!

Freshness Big Year: A slightly faster tortoise

This Big Year shows restraint with physical exercise, the focus being on steadiness, week by week, and a desire for “better” energy. In practice, my jogging could get boring, so the other day, needing to only run 5 kms instead of 10, I laced up my Brooks Beasts, walked down to the flat river path, and attempted some speed.

I flew! Well, I didn’t, but compared to my normal slow speed, I was moving. Over my 5 kms, I managed a pace of 5:53 per kilometer. It’s been many years since I got so far under 6:00. Such fun!

Freshness Big Year: Look ma, I can do it!

See how I balance on one leg. Not such a big deal for you, eh? Me, I include in my daily stretches the torture of teetering on my right leg, then my left leg, each for 30 seconds. Considering that I rarely miss a day of stretching, considering that a physio prescribed one-leg balancing a decade ago, I estimate I’ve tried 3,000 times. I’m extremely flat footed, which makes it tough, but surely it’s not that tough? Well, until today I’ve sometimes managed 50 seconds out of the 60 but never conquered both legs. Until today: I did it!

The secret was something my wife told me a few months back. You’re meant to use your core, advice from an osteo. I’ve always focused on my feet or my knees or my legs, and I wobble and collapse. Until today: I imagined having a core that could keep my legs steady, and lo and behold, my core snapped into action.

You can teach an old dog new tricks. I’m living proof.

Freshness Big Year: Why aren’t my friends vegetarian?

Something I’ve puzzled over, so here’s a book to tackle: Marta Zaraska’s “Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat.” I was drawn in by this long paragraph in her introduction:

As we approach the modern era, this book turns to biochemistry. Is there something in meat’s chemical composition that keeps us hooked? Is it the 2-methyl-3-furanthiol or one of the other one thousand volatile compounds that together make up the specific, mouthwatering scent of cooked meat? Is it the umami taste (Japanese for “delicious”) that is found mostly in meat, mushrooms, and milk? Or is meat actually necessary for staying healthy? Despite the risks of cancer and heart disease, what if the human race would be even worse off without meat, a planet full of small, immune-deficient weaklings? Are some people, those with a gene mutation that makes them dislike the scent of androstenone (a mammalian pheromone), destined to be vegetarians, while others, those who are particularly sensitive to bitter compounds in fruits and vegetables, more likely to love meat? Is it the skillful marketing and lobbying of the powerful meat industry, with its $186 billion worth of annual sales in the US alone, that keep us hooked on animal protein against our best interests? Or maybe, just maybe, do we eat meat simply out of habit, because it got so engrained in our culture and history that we just cannot let go of it? After all, what would Thanksgiving look like without a turkey or a summer grill without a burger? Do we eat meat because over the centuries it has come to symbolize masculinity, power over the poor, power over nature, and power over other nations? Is our love of meat a kind of addiction—psychological, chemical, or maybe a little of both? And if it is, will we ever be able to break it? Is telling people to “cut down on meat” no different from telling a chain-smoker to go cold turkey?